Basecamp Hospitality LLC’s glamping development south of Teton Village has been boarded up for a few months because of ongoing permitting fights. Judge Melissa Owens dealt the company another legal blow earlier this week, granting water quality advocates a stay preventing Basecamp from developing further while their lawsuit is fully heard.
The company developing an 11-geodome glamping resort south of Teton Village was dealt another blow this week in a drawn-out, monthslong fight over how it’s planning to dispose of human feces.
Responding to a lawsuit from Protect Our Water Jackson Hole against the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, Judge Melissa Owens of the 9th Judicial District granted the Teton County water quality advocates a stay Tuesday afternoon.
Her ruling means that until the case is heard, Basecamp Hospitality LLC, the company developing the resort on state trust land, will not be able to continue construction or use the septic system the DEQ permitted late last year. The water quality advocates said the permit was improperly issued. Soon after, DEQ officials told state elected officials that was true.
“It was a quick win and appropriate win because we have invested so much money in Fish Creek,” said Meghan Quinn, Protect Our Water’s executive director. “We’re happy that this happened.
Reached Thursday afternoon, Basecamp employees didn’t dispute Quinn’s characterization of what the stay means for their operation. Basecamp CEO Ryan Thomas referred the Jackson Hole Daily’s questions to the Office of State Lands and Investments, which manages state trust land under the auspices of the State Board of Land Commissioners, a board that consists of Wyoming’s top five elected officials.
Jason Crowder, deputy director of the state lands office, said the office plans to forge ahead with the glamping operation. Basecamp stopped construction months ago because of the ongoing permitting fight, Jonathan Hooke, the company’s vice president of operations, told the Daily on Thursday.
Hooke then passed the reporter on to Thomas, who referred the Daily to the state lands office.
“We see no reason not to keep going forward with the permits as approved,” Crowder said of permits the State Board of Land Commissioners issued Basecamp and the other businesses in June. “Development anywhere across the state has hurdles that need to be overcome, and this project is no different.”
Gov. Mark Gordon, Secretary of State Chuck Gray, Superintendent of Public Instruction Megan Degenfelder, Treasurer Curt Meier, and Auditor Kristi Racines all sit on the board.
In June, the board gave Basecamp the go-ahead to begin developing its resort, simultaneously OK’ing a controversial storage operation and a handful of less contentious stockpiling and landscaping operations. That approval kicked off months of hand-wringing and led to Protect Our Water’s lawsuit and separate enforcement action from Teton County.
Protect Our Water said the DEQ erroneously issued Basecamp a notice of coverage for the septic system in question under an expired general permit.
The general permit is a regulatory mechanism that allows the state agency to streamline permitting for different types of facilities. Included in that list: small wastewater — aka septic — systems for “individual or commercial sewage disposal systems that treat less than 2,000 gallons of domestic sewage per day,” per the DEQ website.
Jennifer Zygmunt, the DEQ’s water quality administrator, told land commissioners that was true in December. She said it was an “oversight” due to staff turnover.
To allow Basecamp to continue its work, the DEQ has to issue Basecamp an individual permit, Zygmunt said then. Quinn said Zygmunt told her the department would start a public process for that permit, with the option for the public to weigh in — and a public meeting.
Zygmunt did not return a request for comment before press time Thursday evening.
Crowder said he was not able to “speak for the DEQ and their process.”
Billy Arnold has been covering the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the people who manage it since January 2022. He previously spent two years covering Teton County government, and a year editing Scene. Tips welcomed.
I don't want to see any development on this site, and I haven't followed the court case closely, but I'm curious whether Judge Owens is objective, or whether she is results oriented in her decisions.
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